Show Ready for Prime Time Return
Rick Gotkin says he has been feeling a bit
lonely of late.
With his Mercyhurst hockey team off to its
worst start in years, the phone in his office has not been
ringing as often. Friends are probably afraid of saying
the wrong thing, and some of the hockey media has turned
its attention elsewhere.
“It’s obviously a long, long way
to go,’’ Gotkin said. “Hopefully there
good things coming our way.’’
Tyler Small and Mercyhurst enter this weekend's series
with American International with a four-game unbeaten
As the college hockey season heads into its
third month, don’t count Mercyhurst out just yet.
The Lakers have shown a pulse of late, earning five of a
possible eight points in its last two series to push its
way into a three-way tie for sixth place in Atlantic Hockey.
“This team can be a good one,’’
Gotkin said. “It can happen for us ... if we continue
to work hard and stay focused.
“I really believe that tough times don’t
last, tough people do,’’ he said.
The Lakers are getting points from all of
their lines. Over the last four games, not a single Mercyhurst
player has produced a multiple-goal effort.
Nine players produced a point in a 3-3 tie
with Canisius and eight players did so in a 4-4 tie with
Yale. Last weekend, Mercyhurst beat defending champion Holy
Cross 3-2 and produced a 3-3 tie – seven different
produced points in each game.
“That’s been a positive,’’
Gotkin said. “We feel like we have four balanced lines.
We think our lines all have a component that could be successful,
whether it’s a guy who can score, one who sets goals
up, and a mucker/grinder guy.’’
He added: “I’d be lying if I said
our confidence was at an all-time high, but it’s slowly
Gotkin, a coach who never reveals too much
about his club, said there were a number of “little
things’’ which has hampered his club during
a 3-7-3 start. Scott Champagne (126 career points) missed
four early games with an injury. The team had to replace
seven players with a combined 823 games experience and 473
points, including current AHL Hershey Bears defenseman Jamie
Hunt.As a result, the Lakers are playing three promising
freshmen on defense and four up top.
“We’re a different team than we
have been in the past,’’ Gotkin said “We’re
still trying to find our identity as a group and I think
we’re starting to do that a bit.
“On top of all that, our league is getting
better and better. This year our league is the best it’s
been ever and as competitive as it has ever been,’’
Gotkin says Mercyhurst has been in every game
with the exception of a 7-1 loss at Ferris State. The Lakers
have already played five overtime games (0-2-3), one shy
of last season and four fewer of the school-record nine
played in 2004-05. Mercyhurst is 1-3 in one-goal decisions
and 1-2 in two-goal games.
One statistic that is a bit mistifying is
shots on goal, where the Lakers are being outshot on average
40.7-28.6. Gotkin says most of the 41 opponent shots are
not quality chances, but the margin is “baffling.’’
“People are shooting from everywhere,’’
Gotkin said. “They are sending pucks to the net, which
is how we should play. For some reason we don’t want
to take a lot of shots. We want to possess the puck and
do things but we pass up good shooting opportunities. We
have to do one or the other. Either you have to shoot more
on one end or give up less on the other end.’’
Sophomore goalie Tyler Small is keeping Mercyhurst
in contests, stopping 90.2 percent of shots aimed at him
and posting a 3.93 goals against average. By contrast, however,
Small had a .921 save percentage and 2.75 goals against
average last season.
Mercyhurst plays at winless American International
College this weekend and
four points could potentially move the Lakers up as high
as fourth place. The Lakers host Rochester Institute of
Technology next weekend. The schedule turns much tougher
the rest of the month as Mercyhurst visits Maine on Dec.
16 and plays Denver and either Massachusetts-Lowell or Brown
in the Denver Cup on Dec. 29-30.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
Heart at Air Force (Fri.-Sat.)
First-place Sacred Heart brings its 7-2-2 mark to
the Front Range for a clash with fourth-place Air
Force and its 5-2-1 record. Two of the top scorers
in the nation will be on hand with Air Force junior
Eric Ehn (No. 1 with 30 points) and Sacred Heart senior
Pierre-Luc O’Brien (No. 8 with 25 points).
Mercyhurst has gotten
off the mat from a 2-7 start with a win and three
ties in its last three games. The Lakers climbed back
into the middle of the league pack with a 3-2 win
and 3-3 tie with visiting Holy Cross, claiming the
season series 2-1-1.
Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., reported that
one opposing player recently skated past the
Army bench and shouted to the players, “Go
back to Iraq.’’ That is a shameful thing
to say to future soldiers who are laying their lives
on the line to protect the freedoms of our nation.
• Pioneering effort: Sacred Heart will
be seeking its first-ever victory over Air Force during
a two-game weekend set in Colorado Springs. The Falcons
have won three of four meetings since 2000 and the teams
• Sweet November: Sacred Heart is 7-1-1
over it last nine games.
• On the brink: Sacred Heart senior
Pierre-Luc O’Brien is on the verge of breaking three
career scoring records for the Pioneers. O’Brien needs
four goals, six assists and six points to establish the
new marks. Martin Paquet, a 2003 graduate, holds the goals
(65) and points (142) records and Jon Yackmack, a 1997 grad,
holds the assists (80) mark.
• It’s been a while: Holy Cross
and Rochester Institute of Technology, set to play a two-game
set at Rochester’s Ritter Arena, meet for the first
time since November 1993. RIT won the last meeting but Holy
Cross leads the series, 5-4.
• Road warriors: Holy Cross is in the
midst of a nine-game road swing. It opened with a loss and
tie at Mercyhurst last weekend and concludes with a two-game
set at Bentley Jan. 5-6. The Crusaders return to the Hart
Center, where they are already 6-2 this season, Jan. 12-13
against Air Force.
• Classy class: The Holy Cross class
of 2007 – featuring Tanner Fogarty, Rob
Godfrey, Jon Landry, Sean Nappo and James Sixsmith –
has been a part of 72
career victories, 10 shy of the mark set by the class of
2006. The Crusaders have at least 21 games remaining.
• Oh, the shark bites: Patrick Rissmiller
is certainly enjoying his time with the San Jose Sharks,
but former Holy Cross sidekick James Sixsmith now owns the
school’s Division I career assists mark. Sixsmith
has 93 helpers, three more than Rissmiller (1998-2002).
• Good riddance: Mercyhurst’s
Scott Champagne is glad he won’t have to play in Sacred
Heart’s home rink, the Milford Ice Pavilion, ever
again. He is quoted on the school’s athletic website
as saying it’s the toughest place to play in the league.
“The rink is cold, dark and no atmosphere,"
Champagne said. "Also, we have not won there in my
entire career at Mercyhurst.’’
The Lakers are 0-6-1 at the Pavilion the past
• Losing its grip: Army was finally
knocked from the perch in Atlantic Hockey as Sacred Heart
broke a tie for first place with a 3-2 win over Connecticut
Sunday. The Black Knights won the league’s season
opener on Oct. 13, and held a piece of first place for 48
days. Army has managed just one point in its last five contests.
Army had never been in first place in Atlantic
Hockey, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Hockey League
(2000-01 through 2002-03) or College
Hockey America (1999-2000).
• 0-no: American International is the
lone Division I team which has yet to record a victory.
The Yellow Jackets are 0-12. AIC’s power play also
ranks last with a 5.8 percent conversion rate (4-for-69).
• National leaders: Eric Ehn of Air
Force has 15 goals in 16 games and leads the country in
goals per game (0.94). He is tied for the national lead
in points per game (1.88). ... Holy Cross has the top power
play conversion rate (24.8 percent) in the nation, and the
Crusaders also lead in man-up goals (28, on 113 chances).
The Purple and White rank fifth in scoring offense (3.86
goals per game). ... Canisius is tops in the land with 29.1
penalty minutes per game. RIT ranks third (27.5) and Bentley
is fourth (24.7). ... Canisius freshman Andrew Loewen ranks
seventh nationally in save percentage (.931), and second
among rookies. RIT junior Jocelyn Guimond ranks ninth (.927).
... Holy Cross senior Jon Landry leads the nation in
points per game by a defenseman (1.36) and Army sophomore
Tim Manthey ranks
fifth (1.07). Landy’s seven power play goals ranks
second among all skaters. ... James Sixsmith ranks second
in assists per game (1.36).
• Looking ahead: Atlantic Hockey features
a couple of weeknight affairs next week as Holy Cross visits
Army on Wednesday and Air Force travels to Connecticut on
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report